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Blood ban move shows new Executive resolve, minister says

Published 02/06/2016

Michelle O'Neill said the move to lift the lifetime ban on gay men giving blood was evidence of new resolve
Michelle O'Neill said the move to lift the lifetime ban on gay men giving blood was evidence of new resolve

The Stormont Executive's move to lift the gay blood ban is proof of the new-look administration's resolve to work together on the main issues facing Northern Ireland, the health minister has said.

Michelle O'Neill was keen to point out her announcement came hours after what she characterised as another positive sign of progress - new DUP Education Minister Peter Weir visiting Irish language-speaking school Colaiste Feirste in Belfast.

"We clearly set out that we are interested in a fresh start," said the Sinn Fein minister.

"I think that today if you take this announcement (on gay blood) and Peter Weir as the new education minister visiting Colaiste Feirste, I think that shows that there is a very clear indication that Sinn Fein and the DUP, as the main government parties, want to work together, want to tackle the main issues head-on and we want to build trust and confidence in those people out in society who have actually elected us to do the job."

Politics has entered a new era in Northern Ireland in the wake of the Assembly election after erstwhile junior executive partners the Ulster Unionists, SDLP and Alliance chose not to re-enter the coalition executive and instead scrutinise the government from the opposition benches.

The move is set to significantly alter the dynamic inside the assembly chamber and around the executive table.

Independent Assembly member Claire Sugden is now the only minister who is not a member of the DUP and Sinn Fein.

The DUP has previously been critical of the level of funding allocated to the Irish language sector.

Mr Weir visited Colaiste Feirste to view progress on a new £15.5 million extension and meet with staff and pupils.

"I welcome the opportunity to be here today to see the positive impact that investment has on our schools estate," he said.

"The new facilities will provide an enhanced educational environment for the pupils and the staff at the school for many years to come.

"In addition to the improved provision for the school, such investment also provides a boost to the local construction industry.

"Meeting pupils and school staff is an enjoyable part of my new role as Education Minister and I am looking forward to future visits to schools across Northern Ireland."

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